Firm News

Wanta Quoted in MN Lawyer on Employer Drug Testing


Aug 05, 2013

Employment law attorney Shawn Wanta was quoted in the August 4, 2013 edition of Minnesota Lawyer Newspaper regarding a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision on Minnesota's Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA). The Court, in Sipe v. STS Manufacturing, Inc., et al., held that an employee has six years after a violation to bring a claim under DATWA.

The Court's ruling in Sipe is consistent with prior application of Minnesota's DATWA statute, which construes the statute liberally in favor of employees. The legislature intended to protect employees from improper or inaccurate testing and to provide a fair mechanisim for employees who may be strugging with drugs or alcohol to receive help without risking their jobs.

DATWA is a complex statute and employers conducting drug testing of employees must strictly follow DATWA or risk stiff penalties. DATWA which is codified at Minn. Stat. § 181.950, et seq., applies to all employers in Minnesota. DATWA requires all employers wishing to test under DATWA to create a written policy and provide written notice of the policy to all affected employees. At a minimum, the policy must contain the following information:

  1. the employees or job applicants subject to testing under the policy;
  2. the circumstances under which drug or alcohol testing may be requested or required;
  3. the right of an employee or job applicant to refuse to undergo drug and alcohol testing and the consequences of refusal;
  4. any disciplinary or other adverse personnel action that may be taken based on a confirmatory test verifying a positive test result on an initial screening test;
  5. the right of an employee or job applicant to explain a positive test result on a confirmatory test or request and pay for a confirmatory retest; and
  6. any other appeal procedures available.

DATWA also requires that employers post a notice of its policy in the workplace:

An employer shall also post notice in an appropriate and conspicuous location on the employer’s premises that the employer has adopted a drug and alcohol testing policy and that copies of the policy are available for inspection during regular business hours by its employees or job applicants in the employer’s personnel office or other suitable locations.

Finally, DATWA prohibits random drug testing in most cases. An employer may request or require employees to undergo drug and alcohol testing on a random selection basis only if (1) they are employed in safety-sensitive positions, or (2) they are employed as professional athletes if the professional athlete is subject to a collective bargaining agreement permitting random testing but only to the extent consistent with the collective bargaining agreement.

The Sipe case also underscores the importance of legislative action in the area of employment law. Without the DATWA statute creating employee rights with respect to drug testing, the plaintiff here would have been barred from bringing his suit.

If you believe your rights have been violated by your employer with regard to a drug or alcohol test, you should contact one of our employment attorneys to discuss your rights.  The employment lawyers at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP have significant experience litigating, and helping resolve, cases involving violations of workers’ rights.  When you contact our firm, you will always speak to an employment lawyer and without charge for the consultation.